Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Worst Post Office Ever

I don't want this blog to be a depository of whines, moans, and complaints. But I will vent here from time to time. This is one of those times.

So it's well into the Christmas shopping season, and for many of us that means frequent trips to the Post Office to send or receive packages. Lately in my travels around NYC I've had the pleasure of frequenting many different post offices for various reasons. By far, the one that is consistently the WORST is my local Post Office in Inwood, on 204th Street.

In a neighborhood with a large immigrant population, it's not surprising that people use the Post Office frequently to send and receive packages and and money to their families abroad. So this place is always busy. But this would not be a problem if there was a professional staff working behind the bullet proof glass. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

When you enter the lobby, you see a set of velvet ropes forming three lines. Wrapped around the edge of the lobby, on the two walls beyond these ropes are a series of windows. Most windows are clearly marked "Retail Services". The two on the smaller wall at the end of the ropes are not clear.

So when you approach the three lines, the obvious thing to do is read the signs on the posts that should indicate what each line is for. In this day and age, at the very minimum you would expect to see something printed out on a laser printer (hell, even an ink jet). Nah, what you see is poorly handwritten notes written with Magic Marker, with crooked arrows drawn, pointing to the spaces between the ropes.

The leftmost line says something like "all services". Clear enough, that leads you close to the long wall with the "retail services" signs.

In between the other two, the handwritten note points only to the rightmost line, leaving the inner line completely ambiguous. It indicates that the rightmost line is for "pickup, money orders, stamps". Now mind you, I've been coming to this Post Office all my life. Of the two ambiguous windows, the left one is the express line for people just purchasing stamps, or for money order purchases. The rightmost one is for picking up packages exclusively. But the handwritten note, apparently scribbled by a 2nd grader, says otherwise.

So if you follow the directions, there are really only two lines. That is, until you get to the front of the line(s) and you see the 2nd hand scribbled note that indicates that there are 3 lines (as described above). However, the arrows are drawn in, crossed out, and drawn back in. Yup... scribbled out crooked arrows, and re-drawn crooked arrows. This is how this post office works. Not exactly inspiring confidence.

Of course there is a long line all the way to the left, where people have parcels and envelopes that need to be weighed and shipped, return receipts requested, and all that. That line moves fairly quickly as the electronic bell summons each customer to the next available window.

But the "pickup" window also has a fairly long line, and a gentleman patiently waiting at the window with nobody in sight inside the window. Presumably, the postal worker is in the back grabbing his package off the shelf. There are two or three people in the center (unmarked) line getting stamps or money orders.

So we wait patiently for the man to get his package. And we wait. And we wait. And we wait for a HALF HOUR before the worker returns to the window. No, I'm not kidding, not exaggerating. The entire line of people waiting to pick up packages is waiting for a half hour while they deal with one single customer. Five minutes in, people are getting antsy. Ten minutes in, people are starting to speak to each other, saying "this is ridiculous" and "is anybody even WORKING there?" (as far as we can tell, there is nobody behind that window) Twenty minutes in, people are downright angry.

During this time, those waiting for packages get to experience the cavalcade of humanity along the other lines. Most entertaining are the people who take the risk of just getting on the middle unmarked line, probably because it is the shortest and they think they will be in and out before the rest of us suckers. When somebody asks "what is this line for?", I pointed to the handwritten note in the front and said "stamps and money orders only"... at which point two people said "Not package pickup?" I said, no, that's this line (still waiting for the first guy to be served). So those people now have to get at the end of the line after they've waited several minutes on the short line, behind the several people who have come in since.

For some reason, at one of the retail service windows, the conversation gets heated, and the worker says in a loud voice "there are TWO LINES". (not really sure why this would come up at this point, but it happened) This was loud enough for the whole lobby to hear, and we all seemed to look incredulous at the THREE lines. I had to speak up and say "Uh, actually there are THREE lines... retail, stamps/money orders, and pickup." This was me doing my civic duty to inform the worker as well as the people who didn't know what line they were on. The woman said "Well I'M only dealing with TWO of them!"

Actually she was only dealing with ONE of them... the retail service line. But even if she was somehow dealing with two lines, it might be a good idea for a worker in a service industry to look at things from the CUSTOMER's point of view.

Now the customer who takes the cake was the woman who came in with a small dog peaking out of her coat, YELLING on her cell phone. Not yelling in an angry way, just yelling because she thinks that's how you talk on a cell phone. Her conversation went something like "YEAH, I'M IN THE POST OFFICE... HAHAHA... SURE, BUT NOT SOMETHING I'D LIKE TO SAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE POST OFFICE... YOU SHOULD WEAR THAT NIGHTY, HE'LL LOVE IT... NO IT WILL LOOK SMALL ON YOU..."

By the time she finally gets to the full service window, she has her own confrontation with the postal worker. "What do you mean I can't use Scotch Tape. That's not what you said last time!! ... I'd like a little less ATTITUDE from you!! ... No, I'm allowed to have this dog, it's a SERVICE dog!! ... Don't tell me to hurry up!! (she was taking a while to swipe her ATM card) ... Where's your manager, I demand to speak to the manager!!!"

This resulted in a further delay as the manager was summoned. So apparently there IS a manager there to keep operations and customer service running smoothly. I wonder if he's the one who scribbles out the hand drawn arrows, or if he delegates that responsibility.

Meanwhile the next guy on line behind her, after he gets his business done quickly and efficiently, is sure to inform her that she's a selfish bitch who is holding up the line. Me, I'm still wondering what kind of service that dog was doing for this woman.

Eventually the worker at the pickup window comes back, asks the guy to sign something... no idea what happened there, maybe they couldn't find his package... he goes on hi sway and the next customer walks up. She fetches his package in a minute or so, and then cleans up her area and walks away... break time.

Her replacement comes in within a minute, so can't really blame them for that... and eventually I get my package. BTW: everybody in my family is getting a bamboo cutting board for Christmas. And those suckers are HEAVY!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Screw You Apple... and that goes double for MicroSoft

And don't give me any of this "that's OLD technology"... we've improved since then. I'm cursing you out because of how much you sucked THEN. I don't care how much you've improved... you were SUPPOSED to have stable products four years ago. And frankly, I don't believe you have improved one bit... if anything, you're probably layered more crap on top of crap and made things worse. Who do I blame? Apple? Microsoft? I blame them both for not TALKING to each other, and making things FAR more complicated than they should be.

So what am I griping about? Here's the deal...

A few years back, I built a new computer for my dad. It was the latest and the greatest (within a reasonable consumer's price range). Core 2 Duo, 8GB of memory, twin hard drives, beafy power supply... you know how I do. And a legal licensed version of WinXP (SP3).

All he needs to do is browse the web, read e-mail, run AOL (yes, they still have an app), view and edit photos, use Office (legal and licensed), and run iTunes w/ his iPod. Oh, and the Family Tree maker. THAT's IT.

So all of the sudden, when iTunes decides to update itself with features NOBODY gives a rats ass about... it tells him "Your computer is trying to access a network resource that is no longer available. Can't find iTunes.msi"

OK, this computer NEVER had access to any "network resource" that would be capable of mounting a volume and serving up a file like "iTunes.msi". That's just pure crap.

So I get the call, block off some time, and head up to dad's apartment. I try to force the manual update... get the same message he was complaining about (and he dutifully copied it down on yellow legal pad for my benefit, and seemed to expect me to read it and have a solution off the top of my head... sorry dad, it doesn't work that way). BTW: it took Apple's servers 11 minutes to get ready to attempt to update. Hey Apple, instead of paying a dividend, how about a few extra pipes to your servers ?!?

So maybe it's just the online updater that is confused... how about I d/l the standalone installer from OK, so another 11 minutes later, I have the .exe. A few minutes later, I get the same message... they just don't seem to be able to update their own damn software if they can't find a file that may or may not have existed on a non-existent server that is no longer there.

OK, time to do a quick web search before I go any further. Ah, right away, somebody else has the same issue. The solution is simple... uninstall iTunes, run Window's own registry fixer, then reinstall iTunes... however this poor soul online found that they could not uninstall iTunes because they kept getting that same message "network resource not available, can't find .msi".

OK, so let me start by getting this registry fixer from Windows. The article was kind enough to link me to it. However, that piece of software no longer exists. Windows now suggests you install their "Fix It" program. MS touts that it will fix problems with installs and uninstalls BEFORE you attempt to do the uninstall. Hmm... sounds good to me. Click and get the "Fix It". Now run "Fix It"... uh, Fix It requires .net.

OK, go to MS and get .net. Oh shit, there's a WIZARD getting involved now. Sooo, Wizard doesn't ask much, just checks my system and asks if I agree to their license... fine, I don't know what you are, or what you want from me... but sure, I'll agree if you'll just let me get ON with this procedure.

So IMMEDIATELY after I do this FRESH install of .net, what does the Wizard tell me? I should really run the UPDATES so it is secure and stable. But wait, this was a FRESH install... why the HELL do I need updates?!? Isn't that YOUR JOB Mr. Wizard??

15 minutes later I'm ready to run Fix It. Fix it then downloads some stuff, installs some sort of "power shell" app, then I agree to their terms... then it scans the regi, then suggests I just let it fix EVERYTHING. I say "No, prompt me". Then it asks what I want to do... I select "iTunes" from the list, and chose "I want to update iTunes". Nope, can't help you with that. Oh, and there's a "back" button on that window, so I should be able to go back and try another option from their suggestions, right? Nope, the back button is grey. After they could not help me with my problem, there were no other choices except to quit Fix It.

OK, lets run Fix It again... wait, it's not on the start menu, no icon on the desktop... did this thing install? Back to the actual file I downloaded, and it goes through the whole thing again... d/l some stuff, asks me to agree to their terms... scans the regi, suggests I fix everything... I say "prompt me" and this time choose "uninstall iTunes". OK Fix It... do your stuff. You should be able to uninstall iTunes, right? I mean, that's what you DO, right? That's what you just TOLD me you could do, right?

Window comes up saying "Trying to fix problem with iTunes"... a progress bar with a meaningless indicator... a series of squares that run across the whole bar, then repeat... does NOT indicate any progress, time left, actions taken... NOTHING.

I hear the hard drive clickity clack (quiet these days, but I can hear it). So I wait... and I wait... and I wait... OK, how long does it take to uninstall an app? Stop services, delete files, edit registry, restart services (if any)... what, seven minutes? (I'd say 45 seconds, but I'm being generous here).

Run down to my apartment, check the rice "Damn, over done... glad it didn't burn!" Check my messages, return a few phone calls, back up to pop's place... this must be 20 minutes later... guess what ?!? EXACTLY where I left it.

Still, no indication WHAT this thing is doing... NONE. It's just "Trying to fix problem with iTunes".

So I tell pop, let this run all night, I'll come back and check in the morning. Who wants to bet that it's still trying to fix problem with iTunes ten hours from now ?!?

I can't believe I used to do this for a living. Good Riddance !!